The research builds on and impacts on three strands of work, involving a range of academic disciplines: 1) Sociological, social semiotic and educational studies of workplace-based learning; 2) Discourse and sociolinguistic studies of communication in the workplace; 3) Clinical (educational) studies.
Thus the research is highly interdisciplinary, bringing together clinical and non-clinical perspectives on communication and learning in the operating theatre.
The research serves a critical bridging function by documenting what happens in a working environment which is of interest to a wide range of academic beneficiaries, but which is a highly inaccessible research site at the same time. We draw on established rapport with the research site which developed through close collaboration between university and NHS Trust, clinicians and non-clinicians, surgeons and nurses. The proposed research is relevant to the beneficiaries in different ways:
– The research addresses a phenomenon -transient teamwork- which is on the rise across the Western world and across different types of private and public organizations, but which remains under-researched. The study aims to kick-start a research programme investigating the effects of working in unstable and diverse teams in the form of a detailed case study in a public sector which is currently at the centre of national government policy-making in the UK, the US and elsewhere.
– The study draws attention to the contemporary landscape of professional communication, which is characterized by wide variety in the socially and culturally shaped communicative resources that people bring to social encounters.
– The study provides evidence of the multimodal and sequential character of interprofessional collaborative work, showing that much of what nurses and surgeons do is instantiated in the fine grained detail of their hand, arm and body movements and use of speech. This is relevant to the fast-growing field of multimodal research.
– The study provides evidence of (inter)professional learning by showing how experienced clinicians pass on professional knowledge to newcomers, and how nurses and surgeons develop shared knowledge and understandings of clinical work. For instance, the study shows how surgeons make explicit and ‘pedagogize’ some of their surgical knowledge to nurses.
– The study is relevant for research on ‘technical’ and ‘non-technical’ skills, surgical performance and patient-safety by investigating the implications of communication in the operating theatre. Our ethnographic research complements this predominantly quantitative line of inquiry, highlighting the situatedness of learning and communication in the operating theatre.
– The research adopts an innovative methodology, bringing together two sources of evidence: 1) the ethnographic generation of knowledge through the researchers’ immersion in the research site and their deep, situated understanding of the context and of participants’ experiences, values and beliefs; 2) the close analysis of audio and video-recorded inter- professional communication through moment-by-moment transcription of verbal and non-verbal interaction. This multimodal-ethnographic approach has been adopted in the study of some sites of social practice, including the clinic, but not the operating theatre, where the approach raises specific questions, for instance about ethics.